Monday, January 20, 2014

Mosquito Pass Road Snowshoe

Distance: 4 miles round trip
Elevation: 11,140 ft - 12,226 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: Off leash
Date Snowshoed: 18 January, 2014
Tags: #snowshoe, #leadville, #wintersports, #powerdays
Other snowshoes in the area: Treeline Loop,  Lower Mosquito Pass to 3B, Vance's Cabin

Mountains galore on a Mosquito Pass Road Snowshoe
There is nothing more sublime than a sunny winter day in Leadville, Colorado. With its mounds of whipped cream snow and American blue sky, this rustic mountain town takes on a sleepy, I-just-want-to-hibernate feel that is a welcome contrast to the nearby frenzy that is Ski Cooper and Copper Mountain. While the hordes are jostling for parking in lines two to three miles long, Leadville is devoid of humanity and filled with outdoor options for the back country skier and snowshoer.

Heading past mining ruins
Approaching the junction where County Road 3B, which splits off to the right (at the blue sign)
On this particular day we headed to Mosquito Pass Road (aka 7th Ave, and County Road 3), which heads east out of town. The road is plowed for several miles and ends at a berm where the road would otherwise twist around a small hillside. From here it is simple to park and cruise up the road for whatever distance you please or detour off onto County Road 3B.

At the gate to the Diamond Mine
The Diamond Mine
Having crossed the gully, the route heads up the hillside before turning west again.
This area is traversed by snowmobiles, which churn up the snow making snowshoes a better option than Microspikes but just barely. At 0.75 miles the road takes a sharp left at the gate to the Diamond Mine, a modern looking structure with a tall tower that is hard to miss. This turn, at least from a distance is veiled by the terrain and we wondered if the route actually deadened at the gate. Keep going and soon you will see where it goes.

Turning west again. The saddle is in the distance.
Looking across the valley at Mt. Evans
Continuing upwards
From this point on the route stays to the left of the valley and continues relentlessly up the hillside towards a saddle at 12,200 ft. Beyond the saddle, the road switchbacks precipitously up another 1,000 ft before cresting out at Mosquito Pass at 13,186 ft. We tend to go to the saddle which has lovely views looking north into the valley beyond.

The views of Mt. Evans and Mt. Dyer from the trail
Up and more up
Mt. Massive from higher up the route
On Mosquito Pass Road, the higher one climbs, the broader the views. Visible to the west in one continuous wall of ice and rock is Mt. Massive (14,429 ft), Mt. Elbert (14,439 ft), and Mt. Hope (of Hopeless Crew fame, 13,933 ft). To the south is a concave bowl of jagged rock bordered on the left by Mt. Evans (13,577 ft) and pyramid shaped Dyer Mountain (13,855 ft). In the valley below are two lakes Diamond and Mountain, which on this trip were invisible.

The lower part of the route is more gradual, climbing only 330 ft in the first mile, but gets steeper on the final approach to the saddle. At 1.5 miles Dyer Mountain comes into view. On the slopes to the left were several natural avalanches. The 2013/2014 winter has been particular dangerous with several deaths already reported. That did not detour one perky couple from skiing up the road, across the hillside and down again in graceful S-curves, their equally perky dog bounding down beside them.

With no where to sit but the road itself, we plopped down on inflatable butt pads and had our lunch wallowing in the stillness. There is nothing like a sunny winter day in Leadville, Colorado. 

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